Meet Guy McPherson, the extinction enthusiast who undermines legitimate climate concerns by predicting we’re all going to die yesterday. Please share this episode with your friends and start a conversation.
Warning: This podcast occasionally uses spicy language.
For an entertaining deep dive into the theme of season five (Phalse Prophets), read the definitive peer-reviewed taxonomic analysis from our very own Jason Bradford, PhD.
- Guy McPherson, “Near-Term Extinction blog post,” Nature Bats Last (last updated 2016).
- Scott Johnson, “How Guy McPherson gets it wrong,” Fractal Planet, 2014.
- Michael Tobis, “McPherson’s Evidence That Doom Doom Doom,” Planet 3.0, 2014.
- Nathan Curry, “Humanity Is Getting Verrrrrrry Close to Extinction,” Vice, 2013.
- BizNewsTV, “‘Humans will be extinct by 2026‘ – ‘doom and gloom prophet’ Prof McPherson on abrupt climate change,” January 19, 2023.
- Shannon Osaka, “Why climate ‘doomers’ are replacing climate ‘deniers’,” Washington Post, March 24, 2023.
- Jerome Roos, “We Don’t Know What Will Happen Next,” New York Times, April 18, 2023.
- List of McPherson predictions
How would you rate this episode’s Phalse Prophet on the Insufferability Index? Tell us in the comments below!
It’s time for the annual Crazy Town Hall! This exclusive webinar on June 6, 2023 is our way of thanking listeners who support the show financially. We hope you’ll join us!
Jason Bradford I'm Jason Bradford. Asher Miller I'm Asher Miller. Rob Dietz And I'm Rob Dietz. Welcome to Crazy Town where the theme of the high school prom this year is, "party like there's no tomorrow." Because there isn't one. Melody Allison Hi, this is Crazy Town producer Melody Allison. Thanks for listening. Here in Season 5, we're exploring phalse prophets and the dangerous messages they're so intent on spreading. If you like what you're hearing, please let some friends know about this episode or the podcast in general. Quick warning: Sometimes this podcast uses swear words. Now onto the show. Jason Bradford Guys, is it possible I can get some help from y'all? Asher Miller Are we talking about lifting something, moving something? Jason Bradford I want to use your minds, not your bodies. Rob Dietz Never happened before. Well, we're geniuses. Self-proclaimed. So yeah. What do you need? Jason Bradford Well, you know how I wrote, "The Future is Rural." Published by Post Carbon Institute. Rob Dietz Excellent report. I edited that puppy. Jason Bradford Super helpful with that. Asher Miller Shameless plug, guys. Jason Bradford Thank you. Anyway, I got asked to give a talk. And when I give these talks about it, I kind of worry I'm going to come off a little harsh because I basically say stuff like, you know, "Cities are unsustainable. We're going to have a population shift, maybe back to rural areas over the course of the century." Asher Miller You getting your degree in like - Jason Bradford Urban planning. Asher Miller Sports marketing or something like that. Jason Bradford Yeah, right. Well - Rob Dietz I do think you possibly have that chance of depressing some students, right? Because you're telling them, "Grab a pitchfork, kid. You're gonna be shoveling cow manure for the rest of your life." Jason Bradford Basically that's what I tell them. Rob Dietz That's the takeaway message. Well, I can see that being a little depressing. So you're looking for help from us? Well, I can give you some help right off the bat. Because I'm not going to tell you how to give the talk, or how to be less depressing. I'm just going to tell you that you're not anywhere close to depressing. Jason Bradford Really? Rob Dietz Yeah. So - Jason's never had anyone say that before. Jason Bradford It's nice. Rob Dietz Yeah, you're like a shining beacon of positivity compared to - Asher Miller It just radiates off of you. Rob Dietz Yeah. You're like the sunshine compared to the black hole that once visited my community to give a talk. Jason Bradford Okay. You're talking about Coho in Corvallis? Rob Dietz Yeah. So this was when I lived at the cohousing eco-village. And we had just been formed, right? So this is like 10 years ago or more. The speaker came, and basically, he goes on for an hour telling us how we're all going to die. You know, climate change is in an irreversible feedback loop and everything is going to be gone. Now see, this is kind of nuts, because the ecovillage is a bunch of sustainability minded people. Jason Bradford Yeah. They're aware of our problems. Rob Dietz Community-minded people trying to figure out. Like, how do we live in this world in a way with a smaller footprint? How do we build communities so that we're resilient against the, you know, the likely problems or other things, Jason Bradford You're doing all the right things, Rob. Rob Dietz Yeah, we even had this group called Resilience Network. The resilience net. Yeah. Unbelievable. And then this guy comes in, he says - Asher Miller That's all pointless. Rob Dietz Why would you do that? We're all gonna die soon. So this guy, funny enough, is named Guy McPherson. And I think Jason, you just don't have to worry. You just have to put your talk next to a Guy McPherson talk. Jason Bradford And I mean, I'm not telling you you're gonna die. I'm just telling you, you gotta grow potatoes if you want to live. Asher Miller So Rob, explain who This McPherson guy is? Rob Dietz Yeah. So he got a PhD in Range Science from Texas Tech University back in 1987. And he had this career as a professor at the University of Arizona. He's in the School of Renewable Natural Resources where he focused on the conservation of biological diversity. Jason Bradford I love that. Rob Dietz So yeah, kind of up our alley, right? He goes to emeritus status in the year 2009. But he's written over 100 articles, 10 books, one is called, "Walking Away from Empire." Another is called, "Going Dark." Kind of about energy issues. And I don't know, the titles kind of seem up our alley as well. But then he starts writing this blog called, "Nature Bats Last," and he ended up traveling all over the place, giving talks based on these writings. That's how I ended up seeing him. And then he also publishes a lot of videos on YouTube, of course, as you do. Jason Bradford Aha, yes. So I've actually interacted with Guy, too. I've met Guy. And his shtick was very similar when I saw him to when you saw him. And it's basically, you know, for the past 20 years, he's been in the business of telling people we're gonna die. Like, if not tomorrow, you know - Asher Miller Virtually tomorrow. Rob Dietz I gotta say, when I heard him speak, I was kinda like, I left there, and I was like, "Okay. What do I do now? He said we're gonna die soon." Jason Bradford Pretty soon. Don't even write a will because it's not just you that's gonna die, everyone you would want to give anything to will be dead as well. Rob Dietz Yeah. Don't just dig one grave, dig a bunch of graves. Jason Bradford Start digging graves. Asher Miller Well, I guess - I mean, I find him a frustrating figure which we're obviously going to get into. There's a reason we picked the guy for this season on false prophets, but frustrating because he's been sounding the alarm about about two crises in particular that are very near and dear to our hearts with stuff that we talked about and stuff that Post Carbon Institute focuses on. And that's peak oil and climate change. And it was through concern about those issues that we got to know Guy. Probably all of us have had interactions with him. And we actually used to publish him pretty regularly on our website resilience.org back in, I think we stopped back in around 2011, even though he's still publishing stuff today. Jason Bradford Okay, well, let's start talking about some of the things that he sort of uses as the reason why we're all doomed. And this one is peak oil. So that's a quick definition because you can talk about peak of a region, let's say. Or, you know, what most people talk about when they mean that is the world as a whole reaches a maximum in the rate of extraction of oil. And the concern was that economic chaos may ensue following this peak because oil is the most important input to the global economy. And if that extraction can't expand, the economy will suffer, you know, contract, and there will be high and volatile prices of everything. Asher Miller Yeah. And the peak oil community, which we are active parts of, I would say, had it's probably heyday, you know, in the 2000s, right? Leading up to 2008. And McPherson was one of these guys who not only saw that it was imminent, but also saw that, or believed that it would be immediately catastrophic when we actually hit that point of sort of peak production. Rob Dietz Well, yeah. Let's check in with McPherson on this topic. He gave a talk, and Jason, you know, you're worried about depressing students. Jason Bradford Yes. Rob Dietz Obviously, McPherson is less worried. Let's give a little evidence of that. So this, I'm gonna share with you some stuff that he went over in a talk. It was a keynote address that he gave to public health students in the master's program at the University of Arizona back in 2007. Asher Miller So, I'm just trying to imagine this group of people crowding into this hall - Jason Bradford College auditorium, or whatever. Yeah. Asher Miller You know, they're all masters of public health. They want to heal people. Jason Bradford They're do-gooders. Yeah. My wife has a master's in public health. Wonderful. Rob Dietz So here he is in 2007. He warned of the collapse of the U.S. economy within a decade. I bet you - Asher Miller I gotta say, for about a couple of years there, people were like, this dude was right. Because right at the end of 2007 into 2008, we actually - Jason Bradford Skyrocketing oil prices, financial meltdown. Rob Dietz Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Maybe this guy is a soothsayer. But then, with that economic collapse, he predicted unemployment approaching 100%. No jobs. That's only because he couldn't go as high as 200%. Asher Miller 100%. Rob Dietz 100%. Total unemployment. And inflation running at 1,000% per year. Jason Bradford Okay. Asher Miller Cool. Rob Dietz Then he said this: He said, "By 2012, the world cities will experience permanent blackouts starting a transition first to a new Dark Age, and then over time to a New Stone Age." Jason Bradford Okay, in 2012, I sat in that movie - Rob Dietz "2012" Jason Bradford To see the movie, "2012." Asher Miller Oh, yeah. That was the documentary about - Rob Dietz Well, that's the problem. Guy McPherson, he thought it was a documentary and they just recorded what happened in the film. Roland Emmerich, by the way, is like Hollywood's version of Guy McPherson. He makes nothing but disaster movies. Jason Bradford But disaster movies where humans are possibly going to go extinct. Rob Dietz Yeah, it comes from all different sources. It could be a giant lizard like "Godzilla," could be aliens like "Independence Day." Jason Bradford Saw that. Rob Dietz It could be weather and roaming packs of wolves like "The Day After Tomorrow.” Jason Bradford I've seen all those movies. Asher Miller Well, you know, McPherson, he's got two, right. So one is the beast of peak oil, the other is the beast of climate change. Rob Dietz But here's my favorite thing from that talk that he gave. He said that, "With this combination of peak oil and climate change, within a century or two humanity will consist of quote, 'a few thousand hardy scavengers living near the poles.'" With the elves, up in Santa Claus's workshop, I presume. Asher Miller There are no poles. I mean, there are magnetic poles, probably. But there's no - Rob Dietz Well, Antarctica has land. But yeah, up in the Arctic, it'll be open ocean. Jason Bradford Okay so, the general term for what his point of view is what's called, near term extinction. And often it might have the word "climate" because of climate, so near term climate extinction. But really, it could be for, you know, various reasons of catastrophes of resources and environmental breakdown. So, he's warning about both. About these resource issues with peak oil, climate risks, and, you know, he really went into overdrive on the climate side of things when the peak oil narrative didn't quite play out. Rob Dietz He could do that even with oil depleting. He could go into overdrive. Jason Bradford Well, there was still plenty of oil. We had fracking and stuff so you could overdrive. Yeah. So he's a leading voice of the near term extinction movement, so to speak. And a lot of this is about the runaway feedback loops in the climate system, sudden collapse of industrial activity, like nuclear power plants going haywire and blowing up everywhere. It would lead to humanity going extinct in very short order. Rob Dietz And if you really want the synopsis, I shudder to call it that, but he started publishing an untitled blog post that's all about this near-term extinction. It's available on his "Nature Bats Last" blog. I don't know when he started writing it, but the first thing it says on there is updated most recently, likely for the last time, or for the final time, 2 August, 2016. I assume he thought he would be extinct by now. By 2017 he wouldn't be able to update it. But I don't know. I copied that blog over to Microsoft Word just so I could see how many words it was. It was 94 pages long in more than 32,000 words. Asher Miller So, this was just a running thing that he was adding to? Rob Dietz Yeah. He kept updating it with sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph, citing - Jason Bradford Even page by page. Rob Dietz Page by page, multiple pages, but yeah, whatever. Jason Bradford Chapter by chapter. Rob Dietz Verse by - Okay, we're gonna quit now. Opinion pieces, news stories, other blog posts, all in service to that main point that climate Armageddon is upon us, and humanity is on the precipice of extinction. Asher Miller And look, there are a lot of people who have come to be convinced by his arguments. And you know, when you think about near term extinction, right, there's probably a spectrum of beliefs out there. And we're gonna get into some of Guy McPherson's specific predictions later. Rob Dietz Oh, we're gonna get into them really shortly. Jason Bradford We don't have much time. We've got to get on with it. Asher Miller I would say, look, when you look at the ecosystem of people that are concerned about the climate crisis, you've got, on one hand, obviously, the climate deniers. And then you've got people who are gradually maybe more and more concerned about the crisis. The near-term extinction, people are basically at the furthest edge in terms of what they anticipate is going to happen. And, you know, I think one of the key things here is basically an argument that there's nothing we could do effectively. So, people who've come to this conclusion, whether they've been convinced by Guy McPherson, or otherwise, there have been support groups, I guess, that have been formed. Or kind of communities of people who are are sharing this perception with one another. Facebook has a Near Term Extinction support group which has several thousand members. Rob Dietz Yeah, the motto is, "Dig my grave and I'll dig yours." Asher Miller Does that work? Rob Dietz I don't know. Jason Bradford Hey, if you do it ahead of time. Rob Dietz Well, look, you mentioned his predictions, and I'm not waiting around. We gotta jump on these things. Jason Bradford Yeah, we gotta do this fast. Asher Miller Because we're gonna run out of time. Rob Dietz I know. Jason Bradford Yeah, I know. We've gotta hurry up. Rob Dietz I call this the happy fun list, okay? I'm gonna go two of these. Jason, why don't you read two these. And Asher, you've got the next two. Asher Miller This is just a snapshot. Jason Bradford It's a sampling. Tiny sampling. Rob Dietz It's like a poopoo platter of them. And we're gonna go chronologically here. So in 2007, McPherson predicted the U.S.A.'s trucking industry would collapse by 2012 due to peak oil, quickly followed by the interstate highway system. Asher Miller How'd you get here today, Rob? Rob Dietz I flew in my flying car. No, the highway wasn't there anymore so how was I going to do it? In 2008, he predicted the end of civilization by 2018 due to peak oil. If you're alive in a decade, it will be because you figured out how to forage locally. Jason Bradford Sounds a lot like what I talk about sometimes. But I didn't say it like that. I just say, "Over time, slowly we need to adapt to more local food." Asher Miller And it's not just foraging. Jason Bradford No, it's not just foraging. Rob Dietz I was out trying to get acorns from under your tree here when I got here. Jason Bradford Yeah. Okay in 2012, my favorite year because the movie was awesome, he predicted that global warming will kill much of humanity by 2020. And in 2016, he predicted that humanity and most life forms will be extinct due to global warming by mid-2026. Now, I love that it's like, "mid." Rob Dietz That's getting exact. . . May 13th. I mean, given his track record, we better be scared for 2026. He just nails it every time. Asher Miller I feel like a total asshole for making fun of this dude, but then again, you read some of these things and they're just really breathtaking. Like this one. Jason Bradford Okay, keep going. Asher Miller In 2017, he predicted that global temperatures would be six degrees Celsius above baseline in mid-2018. Oh my god. So we're talking about like, at the most, 18 months. Six degrees C above baseline. We're about one degree right now - 1.2, maybe? And that the Earth would have no atmosphere by 2050. So you know, time will tell on that one. Rob Dietz Even Venus has an atmosphere, right. Asher Miller Well, we'll have no atmosphere. I don't understand how that works exactly. Rob Dietz Yeah, I don't know either. Asher Miller Yeah. And then June 2018, he implied that industrial civilization was about to collapse in September 2018. So it's like, not only is he getting more and more exact, but the timeline between his point of prediction and the thing he's predicting, they're shrinking. So industrial civilization was about to collapse in three months, followed by a degree C immediate additional temperature jump due to the end of the aerosol production. Which actually, I don't know if it would be a full one degree. And I think it was a half a degree when we shut down all the planes for September 11. So maybe he's not worrying about that one. And anyways, that would rapidly somehow end all complex multicellular organisms on Earth. Jason Bradford I mean, yeah, the deep-sea organisms I think would take a while. Asher Miller Not according to him. Jason Bradford Okay. Okay. Rob Dietz Well, he's still doing this, right? It's not like only 2007 to 2018. We just found a video of him being interviewed by an outfit called BizNews TV. With the "Z" of course. Jason Bradford Of course, yeah. It's a pretty bizarre - Rob Dietz But they spelled the news with an "S," so it's a combo. Asher Miller Oh, good for them. Rob Dietz The interviewer says to McPherson, "In 2012, you predicted the likely extinction of humanity by 2030. In 2018, you adjusted it and said that it would be by 2026." He's making it sooner. "And It's highly unlikely that humans will still be on planet Earth." And of course, McPherson's obvious response to that is, "Well, I published two papers and they were peer reviewed. And I had co-authors. So with the peer review and the co-authors, you know that's a conservative estimate." Asher Miller So it can happen sooner than 2 years from now. Jason Bradford This was an astonishing interview. It was a little bit painful. I didn't watch everything because it's a little long, but I watched snippets. It's hard to watch. But there was a favorite part of mine. It's the sixth section. Because he tries to explain to the poor reporter - bizarre, bizarre interview. Yeah, her facial expressions. Asher Miller Is she a poor reporter? Jason Bradford I feel sorry for her having to do this. Rob Dietz I don't know. I was kind of laughing because she was like trying to, I don't know, like her mind was kind of exploding in a way. Jason Bradford I don't know because I haven't seen her other interviews, but this was weird. Okay? Anyway, he basically tries to explain her like, let me tell you the story about the San Benedicto rock wren. And basically the story is that there's this wren, this rock wren. It's a subspecies of the rock wren. Beautiful birds. I've seen them in the desert Southwest. But this is in Mexico on this island off the coast of Mexico. A few 100 miles off the coast of Mexico in the Pacific Ocean. And it's volcanic. And the whole thing explodes, and it's covered by feet of ash. And the little birdie goes extinct. Pretty quickly, probably. And he basically says, you know, that that the rock wren can fly, but we can't fly. And it would be basically hubris to imagine that we could survive where this wren could not. Asher Miller Right. He actually said that the wren is better adapted than we are as humans. Jason Bradford Yes. I'm just like, how do you take this little tiny population, this tiny island that frickin explodes, and make an analogy to like 8 billion people spread around the planet. Like what is he talking about? Rob Dietz Wings, Jason, wings. You're a biologist. You should get this. Jason Bradford I should. Rob Dietz We do not have wings, and we don't have the peer review that McPherson has. So maybe we just need to shut up and watch more videos. Asher Miller We just need 8 billion cans of Red Bull because then we will have wings. Rob Dietz Way to bring in one of our non-sponsors. Asher Miller One of our sponsors for today's episode. Rob Dietz You wish. Asher Miller They were so clamoring to sponsor the podcast about Guy McPherson. Rob Dietz They didn't because - Asher Miller We're beating off all of the sponsors. Rob Dietz No, he said we don't have wings. They're never going to sponsor him. Asher Miller That's true. Okay, so here we are, I guess mocking this guy for - Jason Bradford I mean, we kind of laid into him pretty hard. We try to be nicer to our guests. He's not a guest. Okay, sorry. Our targets, Our, I don't know. We couldn't get here. The highway don't exist. Rob Dietz We should try to be nicer to our punching bag? Is that what you're trying to say? Asher Miller Look, we're gonna get into why it's important to even talk about Guy McPherson. This is not just like, punching down on an easy target, although he makes it kind of easy on himself, I've got to be honest. Part of it is, for me, just thinking about him is just the frustration of, not only is he talking about issues that are very real concerns, they're core things that we, the three of us, obviously, care deeply about. Post Carbon Institute, the organization with which we're all involved, obviously, is really dedicated to trying to address these. So real issues. Not only is he talking about these in a way that's highly problematic, right? But, you know, he also puts out good observations in some cases. He's saying things that we would agree with. It's just wrapped in a cocoon of bullshit that is, I don't know. But so like an example, right, he's talked about the moment that Ronald Reagan basically pulled the solar panels off of the White House, which is obviously a very symbolic emblematic moment. Jason Bradford What a jackass. Rob Dietz At a time when we could have had real progress too. This is a right at 1980. With a lot more time - Asher Miller We're coming out of all these oil shocks. And you know, like, whatever. So he's brought that up. He talks about the choices that we make every day, choosing dams over salmon, oil over whales, cars over polar bears, death over life. He talks a lot about politicians and CEOs and the kind of pathology of them. He offers good ideas for taking action. Rob Dietz Yeah, yeah. One of the reasons I'm so ready to make fun is because I'm pretty angry and frustrated because he actually had some good ideas to take action. But it's all wrapped in a message of, well, we're going extinct in three years’ time. So I mean, one really good idea that he's promoted is stop fixating on cars. Jason Bradford Yeah, and I mean, the speech to the public health students had a whole list. A great list of like, you know, the 10 wonderful things we could do. And it included stuff like produce food differently, you know, moving away from industrial agriculture, and localize our entire socio-economic system. And if you just isolated that part, you'd be like, oh, this could slot into something Richard Heinberg might say. But you come away going like, it was so painful to read this whole talk. You can read the damn thing, and it's this rambling thing about how close we are to just dying off completely. All of us. But here's what you should be working on. It just made absolutely no sense. Asher Miller It's so incoherent. Jason Bradford Completely incoherent. Asher Miller Total dissonance there. Jason Bradford I have no idea why he would ever talk to anybody about this. And if you're gonna say all this, why take any action? Rob Dietz I don't know, man. But whatever it is we're gonna do, we better do it quick. Melody Allison How would you like to hang out with Asher, Rob, and Jason? Well, your chance is coming up at the 4th annual Crazy Town Hall. The town hall is our most fun event of the year where you can ask questions, play games, get insider information on the podcast, and share plenty of laughs/ It's a special online event for the most dedicated Crazy Townies. And It's coming up on June 6, 2023 from 10 to 11:15am US Pacific Time. To get an invite, make a donation of any size. Go to postcarbon.org/supportcrazytown. When you make a donation, we'll email you an exclusive link to join the Crazy Town Hall. If we get enough donations, maybe we can finally hire some decent hosts. Join us at the Crazy Town Hall on June 6, 2023. Again, to get your invitation go to postcarbon.org/supportcrazytown. Jason Bradford Okay, Let's get into what species Guy McPherson is. It's pretty straightforward. The taxonomy is absolutely clear. You know, there's a whole section of the taxonomy that keys out if you're trying to really hold the system together, you're really working hard. These are the double downers and . . . Rob Dietz He's probably not going to land in that part of the taxonomy. Jason Bradford No. So then you go into the other side of the taxonomy. And it' basically if you've kind of given up, or you're trying to blow it up, or whatever. And so the couplet here is, "fatalistic about near term human extinction so tries to have fun." And that's the species Hospice Hedonist. Or the Latin is, Homo hospitium-hedonistico. Rob Dietz Woah, good pronunciation that time. I'm impressed. Jason Bradford Thank you. Basically, his message of this species to all other in the genus Homo is not a happy one: The end is very near, and we are helpless to do anything about it. However, while telling everyone they and their children are about to die isn't fun, they are stoic about the final days, find joy in the moment, and truly appreciate the little time they have left with their loved ones. Maybe even party hard. Rob Dietz Wow. Jason Bradford And this is actually an amazing quote I found because when you read his speeches, it is this really bizarre combination of sort of philosophizing about the end, explaining to you why it's the end. But then also, a lot of this sort of philosophy about how this creates meaning, and we should find joy, and we can do all these wonderful things together. So here's an amazing quote: "I'm often asked for advice about how to live during these tenuous times. In response, I recommend living fully. I recommend living with intention. I recommend living urgently with death in mind. I recommend the pursuit of excellence. I recommend the pursuit of love. In light of the short time remaining in your life, and my own, I recommend all of the above, louder than before, more fully than you can imagine. To the limits of this restrictive culture and beyond, live like you are dying. The day draws near. Rob Dietz So we've made fun of Guy McPherson a fair bit about his predictions, the timing of those predictions, and based on the quote you just laid on us, Jason, and the taxonomy, we can make fun of him as someone who's clearly able to say a bunch of stuff without saying anything. What was that? I recommend pursuit of excellence? Asher Miller That's the Raiders football team. Rob Dietz That's their slogan? They're pursuing excellence? Asher Miller I think he's just a Raider's fan. Rob Dietz It is right in front of you, excellence. Go get it. But there's a lot more to critique here. It's actually the substance and the basis that he's basing all these predictions on. A lot of people have looked into his work. Multiple Earth scientists have scoured through McPherson's analysis, and they've found major issues with the sources that he uses. You know, relying on a lot of sort of grey literature and soft sources. And the way he uses data, cherry picks. And also, his interpretation of feedback loops. So one of these folks that's looked at his work is a hydrogeologist named Scott Johnson. And he points out the danger in McPherson's approach where, you know, McPherson, he kind of claims to just be passing along scientific data. It's like, I'm just looking at the data. I'm looking at the science. Jason Bradford I have the guts to tell you the truth. Yeah, that kind of thing. Rob Dietz Yeah. And it makes it seem like all of his predictions have this weight of science behind them, when, in fact, it's based largely on unscientific sources. He often cites blog posts, news articles, and when he does cite peer reviewed journal articles, he picks pieces out of it often misinterpreted it, and gets conclusions that are actually from news stories that were written about that journal article. Jason Bradford Yeah. So Scott Johnson summarizes the problem with McPherson in this quote very well. In many ways, McPherson is a photo negative of the self-proclaimed climate skeptics who reject the conclusions of climate science. He maybe advocated the opposite conclusion, but he argues his case in the same way. The skeptics often quote snippets of science that on full examination doesn't actually support their claims. And this is Macpherson's modus operandi. Asher Miller Okay, so if we say, look at this guy, the substance of his arguments are not grounded in solid scientific foundations, or whatever. Jason Bradford He's clearly been off. Asher Miller His predictions are completely way off. Then why are we bothering talking about this guy? Jason Bradford Yeah. Well, first of all, I think it stems from the fact that he's talking a lot about the same stuff we talk about. But the way he goes about it, and the way he's obviously sort of outlandish and making these statements about timing and severity, it makes us look stupid in some ways. Rob Dietz And look, we don't need anybody's help or outside help to make us look stupid. Asher Miller We don't want to outsource that. That's our job. Rob Dietz We can make ourselves look dumber than anyone. Okay? I hope you listeners are aware of how stupid - Jason Bradford We don't need his help. Okay. Well, thank you, Rob. Thank you for clarifying. Asher Miller Our we just being honest that a part of our thing here that there's a real reaction and a frustration that we have. Because this is hits close to home, right, with a lot of the issues that we're concerned about and talk about. Rob Dietz It's like you said, Asher, he makes observations that we would agree with and then he predicts we're all gonna die tomorrow right after that. Jason Bradford Yeah. So there's been a history of backlash from folks that maybe don't want to hear these stories, don't want to hear these ideas, don't want to hear these critiques. And these backlash sort of empowered denialists, right, and power the status quo. I mean, the famous one, of course, was the Ehrlich Simon bet, right? Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University and Julian Simon, sort of a business guy, popularizing the idea that there are no limits. We've talked about him in past episodes. Rob Dietz Yeah. Like Ehrlich is talking about, there are limits based on population, based on consumption, ecology. And then Simon is saying, no, there are no limits. The human mind will solve all problems, and the more the merrier. Jason Bradford And there's trillions of years of growth in front of us. Just absurd stuff. But Ehrlich made a bet and he lost. And of course, if Ehrlich had just like - Rob Dietz This was like to predict the future. Jason Bradford Of the price of commodities. And he lost And I'm sorry he lost. I mean, if the bet had been for 10 years later, or whatever, he might have won it. So it was, again, being too specific about timing, And not understanding that the system is hard to understand exactly what's going to happen. Asher Miller Well, can I just interject and say, I think there's a looking in the mirror as well for all of us, because I think there's a tendency to want to have, you know, people are looking for answers. When you present them with a challenge, with the problem that we're facing - And we've seen that in the sort of peak oil community. I think we at Post Carbon Institute have encountered that a lot. Which is, people are like, give me some certainty. Tell me how things are gonna happen. You know, when is this gonna happen if you're talking about the economy no longer growing? Do you know what I mean? Or we're going to hit issues with with peak oil production, you know. When is that gonna happen? What that's gonna look like. Jason Bradford People love that. Asher Miller And in it, you know, there's a tendency, a desire, I think we all want to have that certainty. But there's also, you're sort of in a situation where you feel pressed in a sense to give people that certainty And I think though, we've been guilty of that as well. It's an understandable tendency. Like, I don't necessarily blame Ehrlich, for having done it, but it can be a mistake. The more specific and the larger lesson gets lost. The larger argument, which is still fundamentally true, gets lost. Ehrlich is right in the fundamentals. Jason Bradford Yes. And so actually, there's a whole species called the Premature Cassandralator in the taxonomy. Which, Ehrlich is a member of that species And the idea is that Cassandra was actually right. Like the Cassandra Greek myth. Cassandra was right. But if you prematurely Cassandralate then people basically can dismiss anything you say later, right? Or anything anyone else says when they're talking about the same thing. Rob Dietz Right. And that's the problem here with McPherson. People lump him with climate scientists even though he's not one. And when his predictions inevitably are off, they're like, well, now you're all discredited. It's just a big hoax. This isn't something to worry about. Jason Bradford It's a boy who cried wolf kind of problem. But there are real problems. There are problems with tipping points and feedback loops. And we should be thinking about that and knowing about that. But when he overstates this by such a degree, it leads to dismissal. Asher Miller Well yeah. And when you think about it, you say, we're all going to die in three years, or in 18 months the planet is going to warm by the equivalent of five degrees C in a short period of time, and that doesn't happen. Then, it's like, well maybe there's no warming happening. Or, if we're not all going to go extinct, that means no one's going to die. I mean, we're obviously facing a situation where there's going to be a huge number of human and more than human lives lost as a result of climate change. Rob Dietz Well, let's look at another side of that. If you're somebody who happens upon McPherson's work and others like him, you can get into this place of disempowerment where you kind of end up saying, "Oh, I have no agency. There's no point taking action. You get to this fatalist state. And there was a recent article in the Washington Post that talked about this 26-year-old engineer who became a climate doomer from reading that kind of stuff and watching YouTube videos. And there's a quote in there where this engineer says, "It all compounded and just led me down a very dark path. I became very detached and felt like giving up on everything." So I think that's emblematic of the kind of toll on your mental health and on the way it can paralyze you when you fall into this doomerism trap. And we talked about scientists critiquing McPherson's work, there was another guy, Michael Tobis, who is an atmosphere and ocean scientist. And he's done some debunking of some of the work that McPherson did, especially around the feedback loops and stuff. And he has a quote that I think kind of summarizes this really well. Or at least is kind of wondering, what's the point of this sort of fatalistic doomerism, And he says, "Why McPherson wants to scare the daylights out of people escapes me. It's not clear to me what his motivation is. I doubt he's in the employ of the Koch brothers, but he certainly demoralizes people who might otherwise have been active, so he's not doing us any favors. He may have more cultural affinity with environmentalists than with oil oligarchs, but he's doing them a lot more good than he's doing us." Asher Miller Actually, I think this, McPherson is obviously an extreme case, but there's a debate within the climate community really around this issue. Which is, you know, everyone's alarmed, right. But I would say some that are really anticipating the worst outcomes, even if they're not predicting, you know, near term extinction of humans. Jason Bradford Right, but by the end of the century, or whatever. Yeah. Asher Miller You know, just really, really significant risks. And maybe they're taking some of the RCP models, the more sort of dire climate models, to heart, and saying that that's what our future is going to be. And others in the community who are also concerned, but what they're worried about is putting out such negative messages about, in a sense, the inevitable warming of the planet in the case of climate, that people are not going to act, right. So there's a lot of, I don't want to call it a circular firing squad, but a lot of consternation and debate happening within the climate space. You know, Michael Mann, who's a well-known climate scientist has been quite outspoken on this. On the side of basically saying, when you put out really dire predictions about the future, it basically is doing more service towards the fossil fuel interests, in fact, than supporting people to take climate action. I don't fully agree with that position at all. In fact, it's something I think it would be worth talking about. But you could see that that is a debate. It's not just on the extreme edges like with McPherson. Jason Bradford Right. Yeah. Okay. So this is something that I also think might happen is that as we go deeper into this unraveling of society, to some extent, like we talk about polycrisis, that more and more people are going to try to find resolution in one extreme or the other. And this is a challenge of where we are right now. Where we sit. It's holding kind of this dissonance of not being sure, and understanding the nuance and the uncertainty. And accepting that we do have some agency. That what we're trying to do is optimize for better outcomes. Maybe not the world that we wished we had, but a world that could be worse if we don't do something, right? So how do you maintain this sort of sense of agency? And there was actually a really recent article in The New York Times by Jerome Roos. Is that how we would say it? Asher Miller Yeah. Jason Bradford R-o-o-s. A fellow at the London School of Economics. And he says, quote, "Ours is clearly an age of upheaval. Humanity now faces a confluence of challenges unlike any other in its history." Rob Dietz Yeah, and the point that he's trying to make around this upheaval is that we need a new perspective to make sense of it. We've got these rapidly shifting conditions, and we need to view it with new eyes. But instead, and this is a quote from the article. He says, "Instead, we're presented with two familiar but very different visions of the future. A doomsday narrative, which sees apocalypse everywhere, and a progress narrative, which maintains that this is the best of all possible worlds. Both views are equally forceful in their claims and equally misleading in their analysis. The truth is that none of us can really know where things are headed. The crisis of our times has blown the future right open." And I think he's really hitting the nail on the head. We talked about this way back, I don't know if it's season one or season two, but it's these two ends of the spectrum. Apocalypse versus infinite progress. Neither one is right. Asher Miller I think this has been a consistent theme for us, not only in almost all the seasons of the podcasts that we've done, but in the larger work that the we at Post Carbon Institute do, which is trying to help people stay in that space of holding two truths simultaneously in a sense. In this case, there is a climate reckoning that's coming. That's inevitable. There's a reckoning of industrialization and a whole bunch of other issues that we're facing. It's not just climate. But in the case of McPherson, we're talking about near term climate extinction. So there is that. Even if we mobilize and did a tremendous amount of rapid mitigation and other strategies, there's a reckoning baked in the system. And yet, at the same time, it's not at this point runaway. It doesn't lead to us all dying in three years. There is still agency. There's a lot that we could do, whether it's a softer landing, better outcomes, whatever goals you want to put out there. But you have to hold both of those things true at the same time. And I think people tend to revert to the sort of false narrative or simple narratives because it takes them out of that dissonance, right? It takes them out of that place of that angst or feeling like I don't know what to do. I have to face this. There's something I have to do. It’s just easier in a sense. Fatalism and techno-optimism, to me, are almost the same thing. Right? They're the flipped sides of the same coin. And it's interesting too, because in that article, he actually used a word that we've actually adopted as well at Post Carbon Institute, which is talking about living in a liminal space. You know, the liminality, which is a term that is used to represent different things. Sometimes it's used to represent kind of like a coming-of-age moment. It could be you're on a threshold of a change and you're not really sure what is in the next room or the next step forward. It's a moment of a lot of uncertainty and fear, but also a lot of possibility, right? And we know that this system that we built, even if we didn't have a climate crisis that was forcing us to change, has had a huge, tremendous cost on people, on nature, and on other things. It has to change. And there's opportunity in that as well. One of the things I have to say that I'm concerned about, and one of the reasons I wanted to talk about McPherson is that I do think as we get deeper into the teeth of this unraveling of social environmental systems, I think we're going to see more and more people who are going to step forward offering some kind of clarity. And that's what McPherson has been doing. He's been offering people a clarity of basically, we're all gonna die and it's gonna be tomorrow. Other people are offering different forms of clarity. And maybe some of them are based on technology or they're based on something else religious. Jason Bradford Yeah. Asher Miller The singu-clarity. Jason Bradford Singularity. Yeah, Rob Dietz I am glad to have this clarity, honestly. Given that we're all going to be dead in 2026 - My daughter wanted to go to the World Cup soccer tournament, which is being held in the U.S. And Mexico in 2026. Well, I don't have to buy her tickets anymore. Jason Bradford Alright. Here we go, folks. The insufferability index. Where does Guy McPherson land? How are you guys feeling about him? Remember, 0 to 10. 10 is really bad. No one has gotten a 10 yet. Zero is awesome. We have no angels on the Phalse Prophets season. Rob Dietz Surprise, surprise. Jason Bradford Alright. We're running through their intentions, you know, from wonderful Mother Teresa type people to evil doers. Personality, quality of ideas. And then you know, scores' bias. Rob Dietz Yeah, yeah. Let me let me start. But a couple of notes before I actually slap some numbers on the guy - On Guy. First, he's kind of a complex person. He seems to understand that we're in this severe predicament. He understands much of what's going on. But he seems so frickin' susceptible to confirmation bias. It just backs up his outlandish timelines for human extinction. But a cool thing about him is that he lives in an off-grid straw bale house where he practices organic gardening, he raises small animals for eggs and milk, and he works with members that live in his community. Jason Bradford It's fascinating, yes. Rob Dietz Yeah, so just take these things into account. Alright? But okay, I say that - I've been so frickin' mad just like going through his stuff. And it must be because that first thing I said, he understands so much and then takes away people's agency. It's so frustrating. Jason Bradford It is frustrating. Asher Miller Do you remember the episode that we did on the two oxen were there were basically these animal rights groups who went after this very progressive college because they were not only we're putting these two old oxen down that worked on the farm at the school, but they actually served them. Jason Bradford Yeah. They were going to eat them because what's more sustainable - Asher Miller And these guys went after them? I mean, they did denial service on their website. They were like harassing them. They called basically all the meat processors around. It's just, sometimes we get most mad at the ones that are closest to us. It's like a proximity thing. Rob Dietz Okay, so let's put some numbers down. I think his intentions are, I want to say pretty good. So I'm not going to give him a big high score there. Maybe a one or so. Personality? Yeah, I don't know. One to two maybe. And then quality of ideas is where I'll probably ding him the most. So I think he's getting about a five from me. Get a mid-scale. Jason Bradford Yeah. Rob Dietz Even though I'm angry. Asher Miller I think we go a little higher. I think I'm gonna give the guy a six. Jason Bradford I think - I mean, this is the thing. How much of this intention is also about the power of being this special person who's the go to guy for near term human extinction? I feel like there's so much ego there actually that it frustrates me. I'm gonna go with - But he's not, like you're saying . . . I go with a six as well. It's not over the top. George Costanza Every decision I've ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be. If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right. Jason Bradford Okay, let's go about this by instead of saying doing the opposite, let's talk about thinking the opposite first. Okay, so how about avoiding the temptation to exaggerate and making your point all. You know, that sort of thing would be great not to do. Rob Dietz Yeah. I hope Guy is listening to this episode. Although, he probably wouldn't have made it to this point. Yeah, another way to think in an opposite way would be to watch out for confirmation bias. Again, you can go back in our catalog. We talked about problems with human behavior and confirmation bias is a big one, where we tend to look for things out there that confirm already deeply held beliefs Jason Bradford Yeah, cognitive biases. We had a whole episode on that. Rob Dietz And part of that gets to kind of what you started talking about earlier, Jason with the Ehrlich Simon bet. It is to avoid overly specific predictions. When you're analyzing especially complex systems, this intersection between the human economy and the climate, you're just not going to get it right. Or if you do, you're probably pretty lucky. Right? Asher Miller Yeah. And then as we talked about earlier, putting yourself in that liminal space of acceptance and agency, right? So it's accepting that we're entering into what we've been calling the great unraveling at Post Carbon Institute. You know, this unraveling of social environmental systems. So accepting that we're facing that. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle. But still feeling that we have agency, which we do. It's interesting that that article in the Washington Post, the young engineer says, quote, "Stop engaging excessively with negative climate change content online and start engaging in your community. You can be one of those voices showing their support for the solutions." Now, we talked about having responses, not solutions because we're faced with a predicament or problem that we can easily solve. But yes. I mean, I think it's easy to get into doom loop stuff, certainly online. So it's important to be aware and to be cognizant of what's going on out there. To understand the science of what we face in the case of climate and other things. But avoid falling into the trap of just scrolling all day long reading bad news. And get out there and connect with people. And part of what I think helps people stay at a place of acceptance and agency is doing it with other people. So not feeling alone with that. I think it’s a really, really key thing. And very important for kind of emotional well being as well. Rob Dietz Yeah. Kind of taking it from the realm of thinking to doing, we've got a friend of PCI and advisor, actually, Peter Kalmus. You guys know, the climate scientist, And I've interviewed him twice as bonus episodes of Crazy Town. And he knows the situation is dire. He's scared for the future. He's scared for what kind of planet his children are inheriting. But he also knows that extinction is not tomorrow. And so he's out there taking action, taking real courageous action. He's, remember he chained himself up to the JP Morgan in Los Angeles to protest how much money they're investing into the fossil fuel industry? He's handcuffed himself to the airport terminal for private jets, realizing that this is a luxury that we don't need to be spending fuel on. And so he's out there trying to make a difference, trying to raise awareness, but doing so not by fear mongering, but by protesting that which we can't continue to do. Jason Bradford Yeah. So I think taking action, and whatever action that makes sense for you, that is congruent with ecological and pro social values is always great. It's always a positive thing to do. And it's a powerful counter agent to this drumbeat of doomerism. And it's not just hopium, alright. God, I hate that word. I know. I hate that word too. McPherson doesn't like that word. He calls it hopium. If you do something, quote, unquote, "hopeful." But I don't think he's right about near term extinction. So there are things we can do to create more benign outcomes. And that's what I think we should be working for. Rob Dietz But do them fast. Within three years’ time. Asher Miller Well, thanks for listening. If you made it this far, then maybe you actually liked the show. Rob Dietz Yeah. And maybe you even consider yourself a real inhabitant of Crazy Town, someone like us who we affectionately call a Crazy Townie. Jason Bradford If that's the case, then there's one very simple thing you can do to help us out. Share the podcast, or even just this episode. Asher Miller Yeah. Text three people you know who you think would get a kick out of hearing from us bozos. Rob Dietz Or, if you want to go away old school, then tell them about the podcast face to face. Jason Bradford Please, for the love of God. If enough people listen to this podcast, maybe one day we can all escape from Crazy Town. We're just asking for three people, a little bit of sharing. We can do this. Jason Bradford How does an ecologically aware human navigate the madness of high energy modernity and survive without going insane? How do you manage painful compromises without provoking crippling anxiety? Well, I'll tell you what I do. I medicate with an enabling dose of "Ah, Fuck It." Just the other day, I had to run into a Costco to fetch a case of diapers for a relative I was visiting. As I approached the store, a paralyzing tension struck, so I took out my bottle of Fast Fuck, inserted it into my nostril, and released the mist. I soon had an out of body experience where I was positioned somewhere beyond the moon's orbit and could see the Earth as just a tiny planet in vast blackness speckled with stars. Diapers purchased in a warehouse of consumer hell became insignificant on the scale of the galaxy and I was able to maintain good relations with my family. Asher Miller Fast Fuck is great for a quick fix, but I understand Long Fuck has been helpful for you, Rob. Rob Dietz Yeah, I got invited to be the best man at a destination wedding in Bali. So how was I going to handle not only the knowledge of my flight, but that of the 120 other guests and our extravagant party on the other side of the planet? I needed something long acting, and Long Fuck, which comes in these . . . I can't believe you gave me this copy, Jason. Long Fuck, which comes in an easy to swallow pill form did the trick. Not once did I call out our collective hypocrisy or feel cognitive dissonance. I was attentive and charming, with a carefree and in the moment attitude. The only side effects were mild constipation and acne on my back. Jason Bradford Well, that's great. Rob. I'm glad you had a good time in Bali. "Ah, Fuck It," available in fast and long fuck forms, giving you cosmic perspective and equanimity to live in Crazy Town.